Chapter 7 - Household Archaeology

In anthropology, a household is the area that provides the locus of residential activity for an individual or group during the extended habitation of a site. Household archaeology provides a link between the environment and social organization...answers: "How many people need to live together to get by under certain environmental conditions?"

The basic household unit is a nuclear family. A household may consist of several related nuclear families forming a lineage or a polygamous household having several nuclear family heads:

polygynous: one man with several wives.

polyandrous: one woman with several husbands.

These social structures can often be deduced from the physical layout of the household. Most households have rooms...their size and arrangement shows:

Nuclear family: equally-small evenly spaced residential structures.

Lineage: large structure, or compound, subdivided into equally-sized units.

Polygynous: large structure, or compound, subdivided into equally-sized units except with one unit larger than the others.

How did archaeologists determine the structure of the social groups in the house compounds at Teotihuacan? Burials, lineages, ancestor worship.

Household structures can tell us about population size. 10m2/person

Problem: counts all space as equal. some cultures store more than others. some cultures do more work outside than others. some cultures live cheek-by-jowl during the winter, but spread out more during the summer.

Similarly, settlement size and density tells us about the population density which, in turn, tells us about the carrying capacity of the environment.

Household structure can also tell us about the permanence of the settlement. Mobile hunter/gatherers, if they construct a shelter, will usually invest little will be simply constructed of at-hand materials. This data is important because this tells us about how the inhabitants were exploiting their environment: simple structures usually mean that they depended upon either seasonal resources or domesticated animals. More complex permanent structures show us that these people either had very rich wild resources, or practiced some form of agriculture. Remember, this is important because sedentary cultures usually have more social complexity than mobile cultures. Analysis of activity areas can clarify this.

A common characteristic of households are activity areas , spatial zones within a household that show evidence of several regular and repeated activities, such as food-processing/preparation, tool-manufacture/maintenance,

food storage, craft production, refuse dumping, religious/ceremonial, etc. Analysis of activity areas helps archaeologist to reconstruct day-to-day activities around a household, in particular, how they relate to gender.

Activity areas can show specialized craft production : members of the household are able to obtain food by developing skills that others will pay for. Residences were large compounds because people were needed in the household for craft production. Craft specialization is significant because it can only develop in areas with very high food production. However, such an abundance of food as well as skilled craftsmen means that some people must be wealthy enough to buy these crafted goods. Kinship-based production broke down as social stratification increased: "Why work for you poor lineage when you can live better working for somebody else's rich lineage?"

Similarly, households can show us social stratification through comparison of households. Type I vs. Type V at Copan.

Changes in politics and economics effects who we live with.

!Kung - Mobile Hunter-Gatherers

Yanomamo - Sedentary Agriculture

Pueblos - Hasta Butte vs. Bonito

Yoruba - Incipient Stratification - 3-levels

Aztec - State Level

Household, Family, and Population:

Family: Fundamental unit of social organization. Unusually consists of a married couple and their offspring.

Nuclear: marital group and their offspring

Extended: several related marital of different generations

Household: A group of people who share the same residence.

However, not all members of a household are in the same family, and not all family members are necessarily in the same household. Because archeologists can identify individual structures, but rarely smaller units (hearths in Iroquois longhouses?), the structure, or household, has become the basic unit of analysis. From the layout of the architecture and the use of ethnographic analogy, it is possible to reconstruct what the family structure was like.

Marriage and Residence: Identification of the household and family units leads archeologists to consider what role the play in society; how did they come about?

Marriage: the social recognition of a sexual relationship

monogamy: one man, one woman; occurs mainly in societies where the
men have to work, such as H/g'ers or plow agriculture.

polygamy: one man, several women; by far the most common

long-fallow swiddeners.

polyandry: one woman, several men; very uncommon.

However, marriage style can be difficult to discern: sometimes only a few households in a society will be polygamous. For example, at KJ, the low-status household (3 associated similar structures around a midden) show evident of extended family occupation. However, the elite compounds had one large ornate structure flanked by two identical structures containing rows of separate, but equal rooms. This agreed ethnographically with a group (Yoruba) living in West Africa who practiced polygamy. Thus, they believe the elites at KJ were polygamous.

It is even more difficult to discern marriage norms: rules of whom can marry whom. Where written records are absent, ethnographic analogy must be used.

Residence Pattern: Marital residence patterns are highly variable for different cultures. Although the book lists several different kinds, you will only be responsible for:

neolocal: new household established in a new area

matrilocal: move in with wife's family

patrilocal: move in with husband's family

Fortunately, this variable can often be determined archaeologically. First, by comparison of stylistic traits on artifacts known to be manufactured by a specific gender. Also, if skeletal material is available, it is often possible to determine relatedness through morphological traits, or mitochondrial DNA analysis (passed along female lines). Thus, it may be possible to determine if all the male (patrilocal) or female (matrilocal) skeletons are related.

Kinship and Descent: Kinship, in non-industrialized societies, often forms the bulk of all interpersonal relationships (such as marriage/incest rules) as well as forming the structure for economic and political activities. Because most archeological cultures are pre-industrial, kinship usually played a very importance role in their society and may be deduced from the archeological data. Often data will be clustered at some level according to kinship. However, it is usually very difficult to identify because it is based on the ideas and beliefs of the society. Fortunately, data that determined residency (particularly mtDNA) can often also show descent.

Ethnographically, the kinship tendency is explicitly stated in the form of descent rules:

Unilineal: individual is related with mother's or father's family.

matrilineal: mother's family

patrilineal: father's family

(Which, typically, is our modern western society? patrilineal)

Often, people will align themselves with certain extended unilineal descent groups:

lineage: trace descent through a known series of common ancestors

clans: trace descent from a common, often mythological, ancestor
such as a hero or animal (eagle clan, bear clan, etc.)

phratries: groups of related clans

moities: large descent group without links to a common ancestor;
usually grouped in pairs (such as at KJ)

Bilineal: individual is related by both mother's and father's families

bilineal: both equally

double descent: one for some purposes and the other for others

ambilineal: some associate with one, others with the other

Status and Social Stratification: Interpersonal relations are often affected by the social position, or status, of the individuals involved in the interaction. This may be determined by the person's achievements (achieved status) or by the group they are born into (ascribed status). Often, a collection of discrete

statuses (sex, age, physical characteristics, personal possessions, pedigree,
etc.) will sum to determine the person's over-all status within their society.
Statuses will always be ordered within a society; if only by age
and gender. However, societies that have no institutionalized ranking (explicit laws) are called egalitarian. Everybody is more or less equal within their age/sex groups. A stratified society has structured unequal access to status and/or economic goods. If only status is denied, it is a ranked society. If both status and economic goods are denied, it is a class society.

Fortunately, identification of social differentiation is relatively easy through archeological data because almost always there is a clear material correlation with status differences. These are often evident in architecture as well as in burial goods. Unfortunately, while it may be possible to identify social stratification, it is much more difficult to discern the nature of it. Did the individual have actual status, or were they just wealthy?